You’re Awesome. Now Share It! – How to Stand Out in Your Job Interview.

The first question that most potential employers will ask is, “So tell me about yourself.” When I practice this interview question with my clients, they tend to share their employment history or personal story. The flaws in these responses are that most employers don’t want you to repeat your resume or know your personal story, they want to understand your strengths and the highlights of your accomplishments. They also want to hire a confident, competent candidate, who will get the job done and bring value to their company.

As a career coach, one of my goals is to help job candidates explore their history, highlight their strengths and accomplishments, and be able to articulate them with confidence to any potential employer.

The purpose of this article is to share five ways to discover your strengths and accomplishments in order to differentiate yourself from other candidates during a job interview:

  1. Feedback from Others:

Did a coworker ever share something like, “You always bring the team together during times of chaos.”? Perhaps you have a talent for keeping balance among your team of coworkers during difficult transitions. Let’s say you ran into your teacher at the supermarket and she said, “You were such a wonderful creative writer. I would always be excited to go home and read your stories because they would get me thinking.” Perhaps your gift of storytelling helps others contemplate and process.

Reflecting back on anecdotes and asking others for feedback will help you recognize your talents.

Some questions you might ask are: “What do I do well?”, “What were my biggest strengths when working in this position?”, “What did you perceive to be my biggest accomplishments?”, “What is the biggest compliment you can give me based on my job performance?”

  1. Reflect on Your Impact:

Everyone has made a difference somehow. It could have been a conversation that inspired a friend to make a change; a beautiful painting you hung at a coffee shop and someone smiled when they stood in front of it; a small change that you suggested for customer service protocol that positively impacted sales in your department.

Reflecting on your impact, no matter how big or small, can provide so much insight to how you’ve made a difference. It also indicates your potential and the difference you can make in your future.

  1. Evaluate the footprint you want to leave behind?

If you were going to leave this earth, how do you want others to remember you? Did you change something for the positive? Did you raise a beautiful healthy family? Did you makes others smile and laugh?

Think about the impact you want to make on the future. Whether it be for work, school, or the people who surround you… there is always a way you can leave a small legacy.

  1. Write it down!

Start journaling your discoveries and look for trends. You will be amazed at how empowering it is to hear others speak positively about you and to confirm this by writing it down.

  1. Now share it!

We are often taught not to brag. Sharing your strengths with others, a story where you’ve made a positive change, or your future goals, is not bragging or conceited. These stories are what make you unique and are inspiring to others. Especially if they are shared with positive intention.

For example, one of my clients with an extensive background in marketing and public relations, has been interviewing for a job.

We were practicing the interview question, “So tell me about yourself.” Her immediate reaction was to share her career history. She quickly became frustrated because her response was long winded, so she asked to start over.  I answered, “I can read your job history in your resume. Let’s try something else. I want to know what makes you awesome at your job.”

I asked her the question again and she responded, “I’m a ninja at fixing a company’s marketing strategy. I have a background in guiding companies who struggle with their marketing, finding out what makes them unique, and coordinating their marketing efforts to help them stand out from their competition.”

Next time you’re asked a question about yourself during an interview, don’t be shy about communicating your impact. You’re awesome! Now share it.

How I Landed a Job from an Informational Interview

Informational interviews are often underutilized, yet one of the best ways to tap the 4046619_mhidden job market. So what is an informational interview? It’s a one-on-one conversation with someone who has a job you might like, who works within a field you might want to enter, or who is employed by a company that you’re interested in learning about. The purpose of informational interviews are to build relationships and ask for advice.

My second job out of graduate school was obtained through an informational interview. As you’ve read in my previous newsletter, my first job was a total bust, so I needed to find something that would be a better fit and I did it through informational interviewing. Here’s how:

1. Asking my friends and family to make introductions– I inquired with my friends, family and former colleagues to make introductions to anyone working in the nonprofit sector serving high school youth. Many of them were supportive of my job change, so they were more than happy to help me make connections.

2. Requesting an informational interview– I asked several people who were introduced to me if I could treat them for coffee and ask questions about their position, career path or experience working for their company. I reached out to four people and three of them were willing to meet with me. *Be prepared for someone to not respond to your request or say no to meeting with you.

Before I met with anyone, I researched their background, information about their company and anything else I could find on the internet.

3. Meeting for coffee– I prepared questions that I really wanted the answers to and could not find from researching the internet such as, “What’s one thing that no one ever told you that you wish you knew before pursuing your career?”During our meeting I listened intently and asked clarifying questions on topics that I wanted to learn more about.

And towards the end of our meeting, I would ask that person to make an introduction to someone else who was in a similar role, worked for a different company or who can guide me more on a particular topic.

4. Follow up- After my meeting, I would e-mail the person to thank them for their time and mention a specific thing they said that got me thinking. I would also remind them about making the introduction.

The outcome: I was introduced to my former supervisor, Brian, a wonderful leader and program director of a nonprofit organization that helped high school dropouts reenroll in educational programs. I met Brian for coffee, we spoke for an hour and I stayed in touch with him after our meeting through e-mail.

Two weeks after our meeting, Brian invited me to an association meeting and introduced me to other managers and directors working for nonprofits that work with high school youth.

I saw a job posting in which I was interested in applying four weeks after meeting Brian.  I e-mailed him asking if I could be considered for the position.

Six weeks after our meeting, I was offered an interview and hired one week later for the position.

The whole process of getting a new job took about two months and I did not waste my time filling out mindless applications. More importantly, I was able to meet and receive advice from one of my favorite supervisors and mentors through the process and obtain a job at a nonprofit whose mission I was passionate for.

Informational interviews are effective at building relationships because companies want to hire an employee they know, like and trust. If you want to learn about the process of strategic networking, which include informational interviews, I have two workshops coming up on Tuesday, March 31st and Tuesday, May 12th. Please click here to learn more.

My First Job Was a Total Bust. 3 Lessons I Learned from It.

When I graduated with my Master of Social Work, I left the University of Denver with few Lakeconnections and job prospects. I had three things going against me: I didn’t know what I wanted in a job, I didn’t know my value and work potential, and I didn’t have an established network.

I was lucky because I was applying for positions just before the economic downturn by randomly sending in resumes and cover letters. I had over 15 interviews as a result.

I’m embarrassed to admit, but I crashed and burned every time I interviewed. The only stories I could articulate were my past work experiences- I could not express where I could envision my career in five years nor the value I could bring to the company in which I was applying for.

I ended up taking the first job offered to me, a case management position coordinating Medicaid services for developmentally disabled adults.

I was terrible at my first job! The position highlighted all my weaknesses such as managing paperwork and writing reports. I missed every deadline and the paperwork stack on my desk outweighed my coworkers.

My self-esteem for that one year working as a case manager went down the drain. I dreaded going to work, took my misery out on my family, and went through the same cycle on a daily basis.

I had to spend a significant amount of time evaluating my experience to understand my career next steps. The good thing about this horrible experience is that I learned a lot from it.

Here are three lessons I gained from the mistakes of my first job.

  1. Get to know yourself– Reflect on your past jobs and hobbies and assess the tasks and activities that you’ve enjoyed. Explore your strengths, interests, passions, values and higher purpose. When you read job descriptions, ask yourself, “Do I see myself enjoying and thriving in this position because it speaks to my strengths and interests?”

Only seek positions that will capitalize on your talents. There is no such thing as a perfect job, but there are positions where your time is spent doing a majority of tasks that speak to your assets.

  1. Practice articulating your value– Hiring managers are seeking candidates that they know can go above and beyond to get the job done. They want someone who can communicate their qualifications with confidence, articulate that they are the best candidate for the position and demonstrate the value they will bring to the company.

Take an inventory of your past successes and write them down. Practice sharing these experiences and telling stories because your past experiences demonstrate your future potential to a hiring manager.

  1. Build relationships and establish a strong network– Hiring managers want to fill positions with candidates who they know, like and trust. Moreover, the people who know you can direct you to positions they think would be a good fit.

U.S. News and World Report has found that more than 70% of people land jobs through networking. You never know when you’re going to need to make a change, so having an established network is essential.

If you have been feeling defeated by the job search process, it’s never too late to go back and reevaluate. Your career path is an evolution and you have the ability to change it and make it meaningful to you.